MANILA — BTS and Blackpink are still the most popular K-pop acts now, but there's more to discover in South Korea's idol music scene, where several acts debut each month.
Today's new artists are counted under K-pop's fourth generation, which Twitter (for research purposes) considers to have started in 2017.
The fourth generation includes groups like Aespa, ATEEZ, ITZY, Stray Kids and Tomorrow X Together, who have already seen significant success not only in their home country but also in the international music scene.
The previous year had no shortage of impressive new artists, all entering the K-pop scene in hopes of making their mark in the highly competitive industry.
In no particular order, here are nine K-pop acts which debuted in 2021 and 2022 (so far) that are worth checking out:
There was much anticipation surrounding IVE, considering the group included former IZ*ONE members Wonyoung and Yujin. Starship Entertainment's latest girl group did not disappoint when it debuted last December with the polished "Eleven," a song that earned the sextet its first music show win in just a week after its release.
Purple Kiss officially debuted in March 2021 but RBW's seven-member girl group has been releasing songs since late 2020, showcasing their versatility by tackling various genres from R&B, rock to disco.
Boy band Kingdom entered the scene in February 2021, offering an ambitious concept that embraces K-pop's penchant for grand storytelling and theatricality. The seven members' stage names are references to historical and legendary figures, which also serve as inspiration for the group's songs that give off a larger-than-life, cinematic appeal.
DSP Media's Mirae debuted strong in March 2021 with "Killa," which brings together funk, hard-hitting electronica and an unrelenting energy for a satisfying three-minute experience. Earlier this month, the seven-piece boy band returned with "Marvelous," a track with a robust chorus that's exactly as its title suggests.
bugAboo may have released only one song last year but it was enough to catch the attention of many (the music video has logged over 16 million views on YouTube as of writing) and spark excitement over what's to come. The sextet, after all, is the latest idol group from producer Ryan S. Jhun, who has crafted countless hits for many popular K-pop stars.
Kwon Eunbi has always been a standout performer, even during her "Produce 48" trainee days. That's why it was no surprise when Woolllim Entertainment debuted her as a soloist following her IZ*ONE stint. Single "Door," with its brass-rich swing sound, succeeds in showcasing what the promising idol has to offer.
More girl groups have been taking on horror-inspired concepts (think Dreamcatcher) but the most exceptional among them is PIXY, which had a busy debut year in 2021, releasing one single album and two extended plays.
EPEX took its first step in June 2021 with the hip hop-heavy "Lock Down," followed by October's bright and quirky "Do 4 Me," which proved to be a charming grower. Showing that the octet can pull off two extremely different sounds, it's exciting to see what C9 Entertainment's new boy group does next.
Formed through the survival program "Girls Planet 999," Kep1er (Kepler) was originally scheduled to debut in December but this was postponed after some of the girls and their staff tested positive for COVID-19. The nonet finally made its "first impact" last Jan. 3 with the single "Wa Da Da" and pulled off an impressive feat by bagging its first music show win after just 10 days.
Notable acts that did not make it into the list, but which warrant an honorable mention include Billlie, Ciipher, Choi Yena, Lightsum, Omega X, Tri.be and Xdinary Heroes.
Beijing-based Yuehua Entertainment has also unveiled its new boy group, Tempest, notable for having "I-LAND" Vietnamese trainee Hanbin, and duo Hyeongseop X Euiwoong as members. The septet is scheduled to debut on February 21.
Brand New Music, home to AB6IX and BDC, reportedly announced it would debut a new boy group this year, which includes former X1 member Lee Eunsang.
Fans are also looking forward to two upcoming boy groups under JYP Entertainment and Psy's P Nation, composed of trainees who competed in the 2021 reality show "Loud."